Edinburgh Castle Piping In Visitors

Submitted by edg on Mon, 27 Jul '09 4.12pm

The skirl of bagpipes on the Royal Mile may be a familar sound, but for the first time in recent years a lone bagpiper is welcoming visitors to Edinburgh Castle as it opens each day.

The piper, in full Highland dress, will be playing daily throughout the Summer season as Edinburgh Castle's great wooden entrance gates draw open at 9.30am and visitors flow in across the drawbridge.

The piper is also playing Scottish tunes throughout the morning in Hospital Square.

At 12.45pm there's a special performance as a build-up to the firing of the One O'clock Gun.

The bagpipes and Edinburgh castle go together like shortbread and tea. There's the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which, each August, sees massed pipes and drums in rousing performances on the castle esplanade - ending with lone piper playing on the battlements. And who can forget the March of 1,000 Pipers from the castle at the millennium?

Having a daily castle piper is a new initiative, one of a number of pilot projects being run by Historic Scotland to enhance the castle's visitor experience.

"At peak times we often have people gathering on the esplanade ready for the castle to open," said Barbara Smith, Edinburgh Castle executive manager.

"We thought it would provide a very special welcome if they were piped across the drawbridge when the gates swung open."

Smith said the feedback from visitors has been "excellent".

"They love hearing the sound of the pipes drifting round the castle, and they also provide a superb build-up to the firing of the One 0'clock Gun, which is one of the most eagerly anticipated moments of the day."

If the trial proves successful then a piper could become one of the castle's regular attractions.

The pipers who are playing for visitors during the trial period are Roddy Deans, who sports a red Ramsay tartan, and Duncan Knight of Reel Time Events.

Roddy said: "It's a privilege for me to be asked to play at Edinburgh Castle as that's the place which inspired me to learn the pipes."

"When I was six my mum took me to the Tattoo and I heard the music and told her that's what I wanted to do."

"She phoned the school, arranged for me to have lessons - and 24 years on I'm a professional piper."

So far the public reaction has been excellent, with his arrival on the Gatehouse in the morning causing a buzz among the waiting visitors.

"It's been great, it seems to give them a real sense of occasion when I appear up there and play them into the castle," said Roddy.

Each day the pipers provide a two-hour programme of music - traditional and contemporary - from marches to hornpipes and jigs.

Among the visitors' favourites are Highland Cathedral, Amazing Grace and Scotland the Brave.

Deans has also been selected to play the pipes on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square on 17th August.

Edinburgh Castle Opening times

9:30am - 6:00pm
1 Apr - 30 Sep

9:30am - 5:00pm
1 Oct - 31 Mar